EXCLUSIVE: Jonatha Brooke, Jeremy B. Cohen Talk New York Premiere of 'My Mother Has Four Noses' at The Duke on 42nd Street
A veteran singer-songwriter, label head and now playwright of My Mother Has Four Noses, Brooke has tapped into a grief far beyond the five stages of Kübler-Ross. She's found a way to transcend a daughter's loss with candid humor and authentic wit.
Dealing with her mother's descent into senility--where she literally has four prosthetic noses as a result of an undiagnosed mole on her cheek--Brooke manages to illuminate her own struggles, facing death in a most untimely sense.
A self-made, cancer-surviving, clowning Christian Scientist poet who waited too late to receive treatment for her Alzheimer's, Nancy Lee Stone's entire life is the basis for Brooke's quasi-feel-good musical.
It's only in the last days of Stone's life, though, that Brooke comes to terms with her own motherly instinct.
"There's this whole world that you can ameliorate by entering it in a way of love. And communicating that on all the other levels that are available to you isn't necessarily obvious," Brooke said from her dressing room atop the New 42nd Street Project in Times Square.
"The poetry there is I'm mothering my mother, and as awful as this is, I have the tenderness of a mother," she continued.
"I understand that now."
To a packed room, sans tissues, Brooke alternated between speech and song--strumming and picking her guitar or striking out from behind a keyboard intimate lyrics about her mother.
Her stronger suit is surely the music, yet words alone do not cheapen how she narrates the show, accompanied by stuffed sinuses and a cello/guitar duo.
"I feel the electricity about it in a good way," Brooke said when asked about the difficulty in telling her hellish tale. "I feel this energy, this glow of love, which was the essence of what it brought to me."
Director Jeremy B. Cohen collaborated with Brooke on My Mother Has Four Noses, workshopping the production around Gotham last February, as well as in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Once it was ready, Cohen and Brooke traveled to Connecticut (and Philadelphia, again) before the show's New York City premiere.
"Depending on what their generation is, regardless of place, people have connected to this show," said Cohen.
"That you are laughing in the middle of it is so present. What I keep hearing from people is it's that laughter in the moment; there's no right way to do this hard thing."
"There's a grace here," he says, "and there's something very spiritual about that."
For what, on the page, reads like one woman's subjective story, come the final curtain, indeed we're left with a universal truth: Brooke's mother, Christian Science and all, could very well be our own.
One can only hope, then, that Jonatha Brooke and Jeremy B. Cohen's My Mother Has Four Noses continues to make the rounds. Their poetry together really is terribly intimate.© 2016 The Classical Art, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.